Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Plate to Page Ireland


Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation and a pinch of creativity. 
Bo Bennett 

It’s odd how different one group is from another. More or less bloggers, more or less professionals. They come from all over the world, every continent, but it isn’t that. Each group has its own distinct, unique personality, its own needs, its own dynamics. Each group brings something different to the table. Each Plate to Page workshop weekend begins much like a blind date: surreptitious, curious glances, trying not to appear as if staring; dancing around each other’s words, trying to understand the meaning; feeling each other out in an attempt to capture and understand each persona, each sense of humor, each level of shyness. Curiosity tainted with doubt fills the space, excitement mingled with self-consciousness. Like the first day of school. I often feel like a parent or a Scout leader trying to make everyone feel comfortable and at home, wanting this group, like the others, to form one happy, cohesive family.

By late morning of the first day, things start to click. The first set of exercises does that. One “I can’t write. I don’t write! I won’t write!” Another, arms crossed, slouched in the chair, refusal to make eye contact. Or worse: a brassy, fearless glare! “Make me, if you dare!” A “I came here only for the photography” is a sharp punch in the gut. A third releases her inner child, her inner, as she puts it, Gollum. “Impossible! I cannot! I will not! What am I doing here?” We have in some way asked them to bare their soul, show their true selves to a group of complete strangers, maybe try something they never have before dared or have convinced themselves they are not able to do; terrifying, indeed. We are all to be judged! Discomfort is inevitable. Yet we continue merrily around the group, (not giving in, not accepting any excuse not to participate) asking to hear everyone’s work, the result of an exercise done under pressure, under the constraints of time and limitations of subject. Then the second exercise is given, a mere quarter hour has passed and thick crusts are shed, embarrassment and angst give way to the spirit of the weekend and a warmth and bonhomie fill the room and we are off!

The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates. 
Oscar Wilde 

 Sofiah jumps into both the photo and the writing work.

Laughing, joyful clapping, cheering each other on as one more funny story is read aloud. Or breath taken away, emotions raw as another reads out a stunningly beautiful piece. Critique given, discussion ensues, heads nodding in accord, another attempt, pushing oneself to move a step forward. We coax out talent, explain flaws, guide and instruct. Eyes light up in understanding, impish grins as foibles are admitted, self- satisfied blushes wash over cheeks, and rightfully so, when a piece of writing is simply, utterly superb.

Plate to Page workshops are nothing if not exciting. We watch as our students give the best of themselves. Each arrives with his or her own baggage: different levels of experience and talent, different interests and goals. Friday morning, barely the time to claim a bed and have a snack and they are plunged into a world of words and images, stories to tell visually and verbally. The photographers cringe at the writing exercises, the writers worry about their photography skills, yet very quickly they are swept up in the challenge, begin to understand the reasons behind the program we offer and are energized!

Ilva teaches advanced styling and photography.

Meeta discusses shooting white on white while...

Ilva works on another setup, another mood, a different light.

And as the weekend progresses, as the participants open up to so many personal and creative possibilities, the group grows closer, barriers are broken and masks – both personal and creative masks - are dropped. Prosecco and wine corks are popped, glasses filled and refilled, the endless abundance of food circulates and they are ready for the next set of exercises.

Plate to Page workshop is filled with the tapping of keyboards, the scratching of pens and pencils on paper (yes, the old fashioned way), the clicking of cameras. Plates of food, boxes of props, bottles of bubbly are carried throughout the houses and around the grounds of gorgeous Decoy Country Cottages outside of Dublin, Ireland. The sun plays tag with the rain, allowing for a change of light and ambiance for the photo shoots, as if on cue, as if part of the program.

 While the students work on their photography, the writing instructors improvise.

Challenges are accepted, worried looks, furrowed brows give way to grins and whispers between partners, a hurried dash towards props like on any episode of Top Chef, scurrying off to a corner to set up a shot. Or gathered around a long table, stories read aloud with confidence, with doubt. One topic, twelve visions. Jeanne and I push them to think outside of the box, forget their self-imposed limits, other peoples’ expectations. We show them how to follow their instincts, to find what works, to find their natural voice, to find inspiration.

White against white, violet on charcoal, bounces repositioned, cutlery shifted. Fingers fiddle with settings, moods varying from romantic to brooding to country to elegant, light to dark, busy to stark. Meeta and Ilva explain, discuss, point out, move back to allow for personal interpretation, to each his or her own style.

By the end of the weekend, each student has discovered something new about him or herself, his or her talents, what he or she is capable of. By the end of the weekend, each student has understood the synergy between writing and photography.

By the end of the weekend, we have formed one cohesive group, a family. Once again.

No great thing is created suddenly. 
- Epictetus 

What fascinating participants: Monica and Sofiah, Anne Marie and Karon, Susana and André, Kate and Samantha, Mafe and Sumayya, Lidija who came all the way from Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, the United States, South Africa, Guatemala, England, Singapore and Slovenia. Photographers, writers, authors, bloggers and those just starting off.

Read some of our P2P Ireland participants reviews:

Sumayya: A food inspiration to write and create
Susana and André: From food to friendship
Karon: Food photography and a dream come true

And how could one possibly eat – or drink – better than at Plate to Page? Thanks to Donald Russel Butchers, Ed Hick’s Bacon Jam and Love Moorish Smoked Humous (Lemon & Dill and Chilli Harissa !!!) – we could not get enough ! Prosseco in abundance from Nino Franco in Italy and gorgeous red wines from Brancott Estate in New Zealand. And artisinal jams from the wonderful Wendy at Sunchowder’s Emporia in Florida ! Always a treat !

David describing each stunning dish he prepared for lunch as Meeta photographs.

And P2P Weimar alum the super talented David came to cook for us on Sunday. His lunch and dinner literally left this noisy, boyant, joyous group…speechless. That is how good his food was.

And what goodie bags, thanks to amazing sponsors (visit our Sponsors page to discover more!). Incredible Better Zesters (Better? Nope! The best!) and knife sharpeners from Edgeware. Dukkah and Skinny Hot Chocolate from South African NoMu. Donegal Rapeseed Oil. A copy of one of my favorite cookbooks Heartbreak Recovery Kitchen by Jeanne Ambrose and Lindsey Ambrose. Artisinal chocolates from Rococo Chocolates. Patron Tequila.
But the food is for another post…


Plate to Page Weimar
Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.

Plate to Page Tuscany
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
- Sylvia Plath

Plate to Page Somerset 
Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.
- Ray Kroc


A Canadian Foodie said...

I look forward to being in one of those photos and to attending maybe the next P2P, Where will it be - and when?

Jeanne said...

OMG, good times, good times...! Can't believe this was only a few weeks ago as I feel we've known the participants forever :) A great write-up of another phenomenal weekend and OMG you are my official photographer from now on. Clearly you had the "slim, young & gorgeous" setting activated on your camera ;o)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A wonderful workshop! There's so much to learn from each of you...

Thanks for sharing your impressions with us.



La Table De Nana said...

Looks like a grand grand time..

And which one of us has not stood on a chair to phto a meal?:)

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

These collaborations are so memorable and precious. Love the pic of you and Jeanne.

Caroline@Bibliocook said...

I'll bet David made you something worth photographing - and writing about! Glad to hear that you had a good time in Ireland.

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

That looked amazing, Jamie. Great fun with such a group. Wish could have been there. You mentioned Prosecco? Bubbly group, indeed.

Rambling Tart said...

What a jolly, stretching, and inspiring time. :-) I love seeing you all so glowy and happy :-)

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

One day - one day I will be in that group. I might have to win the lottery or sell my first born but it will happen. :)

Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes said...

It sounds like such amazing days, of personal insight and becoming better at things we love to do. Funny, your first paragraph sounds like it´s a school were most are forced to be there. Those words make me think so much about how we would be if embarrasement and other´s expectations weren´t part of our daily equation. Love this post Jamie!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a fantastic group of talented bloggers to spend time with Jamie! :D All of your passion shines through!

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com said...

OMG! This is one workshop of a dream! Fantastic and I love the different angles and setup of shoots. So creative :)

nancy baggett said...

Sound intense--in a wonderful way. I'm sure that all the attendees went away wiser and more skilled.


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